Alumna Brighid Gonzales Garners National Award for Research Paper on Linked Data

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Alumna Brighid Gonzales followed up her San José State University School of Information graduation in May 2014 by receiving an award for outstanding student writing at the annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) in June.

Gonzales, a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, won the 2014 LITA/Ex-Libris Student Writing Award for her paper titled “Linking Libraries to the Web: Linked Data and the Future of the Bibliographic Record.” According to an ALA news release, her manuscript “describes the potential use of linked data to make library catalogs and online resources interoperable with other data across the Web.”

The award is sponsored by LITA, a division of the ALA, and Ex Libris Group, a company that provides automation products to libraries. Gonzales’ paper was published December 2014 in LITA’s refereed journal, Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL), plus she received $1,000 and a certificate of merit.

The criteria for the award include relevance to libraries and information technology, timeliness, originality of ideas, persuasiveness of arguments, quality of writing, clarity of presentation, and contribution to the continuing education of the LITA membership.

After learning she had won the award via an email from award committee chairperson Regina Koury, Gonzales said, “I was very surprised, but also really happy to have won.” The award helped pay for her trip to the ALA conference in Las Vegas, where she attended the awards ceremony. “It was a great honor to be recognized by a professional association,” she said, “and I had the chance to meet several of the people involved with the award committee while I was there.”

Gonzales chose her topic after seeing a notice about the award and deciding to submit something for it. None of the papers she’d written for her iSchool courses seemed like “a good fit,” however. Reasoning that LITA focuses on library and information technology, she looked for a topic that was both technology related and current in the field.

“I kept seeing ‘linked data’ popping up in library literature and blogs, and thought it was interesting, but it hadn’t been explored in any of the classes I’d taken at SJSU,” Gonzales said. “I decided to research that as a way to learn more about it, and also because I thought it was a very relevant topic for LITA.”

Gonzales’ research included reviewing current literature from professional journals as well as library blogs and other resources from around the Web. After some initial research, she wrote the paper over the winter break between the fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters, doing additional research as she wrote each section of the paper.

Gonzales earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a minor in writing from the University of Evansville (Indiana), graduating magna cum laude but without a clear career path in mind. “I was looking for something that would provide me with a career rather than just a job,” she said, “and I had several friends and former classmates who ended up in the library or archives fields and really recommended it. After exploring the idea a bit, it felt like just what I had been searching for.” Gonzales started the MLIS program in fall 2011.

Even while working full-time during her graduate studies, Gonzales took advantage of many learning and leadership opportunities available through the iSchool. She served as a content editor for the school’s Student Research Journal (SRJ), and wrote an article titled “Preparing LIS Students for a Career in Metadata Librarianship” that was published in the SRJ’s volume 4, issue 1, in June 2014.

In spring 2013, Gonzales interned at the San Mateo County (California) Library, mainly writing social media and blog content. Then during summer 2013, she served as a digital services intern for the University of Houston Digital Library, co-leading an intern project to integrate the library’s blog with the freshly designed interface for its public website.

Gonzales chose most of her electives from the Academic Librarianship career pathway, but also worked in some courses from the Digital Services and Emerging Technologies pathways. She knew she wanted to work with students in an academic environment, but with her interest in research and writing, she said, she also wanted a job “where I would have an opportunity to do more of that and be supported in that by the institution. I was afraid to specialize too much with the job market being so difficult, but I was very interested in working with technology as well.”

Gonzales’ multipronged strategy appears to have worked: in October 2014 she started her first job in the information field as the technology librarian at Our Lady of the Lake University, a small private university in San Antonio, Texas. She describes the job as “a combination of electronic resources librarian and Web services librarian, so I’m responsible for the library’s website, the electronic databases, and managing and troubleshooting any systems-related issues.” She also works on the reference desk, and will eventually do some library instruction.

“The job responsibilities are pretty varied, so I’m learning about different services and technologies,” said Gonzales, who moved from Los Angeles to take the job. “It’s a good position for getting experience in a lot of different areas, which I like.”

For now, Gonzales said, she is focused on learning her new job and “everything about the way the library here works.” In the future, though, she hopes to become more involved with professional associations.

Favorite Things About the MLIS Program

“I liked the variety of options, as far as choosing electives and the different career pathways you could focus on. A lot of why I initially chose SJSU had to do with cost and the flexibility of it being an online program, which would allow me to continue working while I completed my degree. That was a major factor for me.”

Influential Instructors

“Most of the instructors I had at SJSU were very helpful and great about answering questions, even when they weren’t directly class related. Dr. Michelle Simmons was especially helpful, as she agreed to help me edit my paper before I submitted it to LITA. I also learned a great deal about scholarly writing from Dr. Anthony Bernier, faculty advisor for the Student Research Journal, when I served as a content editor.”

Tech Tips

“I think any technology skills you can learn will be useful to you and help you stand out in the job market. I would especially recommend learning HTML and CSS. I worked as a peer mentor with Debbie Faires in my last semester, and doing that gives you the chance to use a bunch of really relevant technologies, including the instructor side of a learning management system (LMS). If you’re able to learn any library-specific software while you’re still a student, that will help tremendously. I didn’t have the chance to use things like ILLiad, EZ-Proxy or an integrated library system (ILS) before I started working, so I’m learning all of that on the job. It would have been helpful to have some prior experience with systems like those.”

Professional Affiliations

ALA and its New Members Round Table, and LITA.

Best Conference

“So far, I’ve only been to the ALA conference in June 2014. But there are several other conferences I’d like to attend at some point, as well as eventually go back to ALA.”

Favorite Blogs

“I found the Hiring Librarians blog very informative before and during my job search. I also enjoy reading Letters to a Young Librarian.